Republican congressional hopeful David Bellavia opened his income tax returns for area reporters Monday as he attempts to quell questions about his finances and portray himself as a middle-class opponent to wealthy businessman Chris Collins.
Bellavia, an Iraq War veteran who received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, has entered the Republican congressional primary against the former county executive for the right to face Democratic incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul in November. But he has been identified mostly as a veteran, and questions about his occupation have arisen.
As a result, the candidate displayed income tax returns dating from 2006 that show his income in the mid-$60,000 range for most years, though jumping to $106,193 in 2007 and dipping to $24,141 in 2009. He said the low figure resulted from his stint running a Washington foundation assisting veterans that hit a low point during the recession. Though he once worked as an executive with Steuben Foods, he said his income mostly stemmed from his authorship of a memoir of his infantry experiences in Iraq -- "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War." Bellavia also co-wrote and sold the screenplay for a forthcoming film -- "Tie That Binds."
He said he is currently working on a second book about his military experiences.
"I'm asking for the people's trust, and you have to be transparent to do that," he said Monday. "I think Chris Collins and Rep. Hochul should do it, too. There is no better way to show openness and transparency than to show the money you have."
Bellavia said that for the past six years he has earned a "middle class" salary that qualifies him to represent the new 27th District in Congress.
"I'm embracing that fact, and not trying to be anything that I'm not," he said, adding that some financial difficulties caused him to fall behind on city-county and school taxes in Batavia for several years.
"There was a time when we had to make some tough decisions," said Bellavia, who is married to a Rochester television reporter. They have has three children.
"But we paid the fines and fees and made it right," he said, adding that the bulk of their income stemmed from his book.